Tag Archive: Birmingham Youth Theatre


First show of the year and what better way to start than a panto. Now I’m a huge fan of Birmingham Youth Theatre, especially after last summers’ brilliant Disco Inferno. Therefore, I had no hesitation in attending Jack and the Beanstalk at The Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham.

Yes, we all know the basic plot of Jack and the Beanstalk, so I won’t bore you with the details. However, each production needs an original take and Director, Joe Logan delivered that with his own script. As a writer of pantos myself, I admired magic moments on the night that I wish I’d thought of in mine. The character of Alexa was a touch of genius; the way she slipped into the Amazon Information Device when asked a question. And kudos to Ruby Blount for a superb performance, especially in the opening barrage of facts which must have been extremely hard to learn.

As our hero, Jack, Charlie Bland was in fine form and excelled equally with Blount, duetting in Human Nature. And in Jack’s sibling (Silly Billy), Megan Allsop equally delivered the laughs and performed well during Dance Monkey.

Of course, a panto needs a Dame (which I believe needs to be convincing as a female and played with respect). I’m happy to say Harrison Doherty did just that with a gorgeous but funny Dame Dolly. Likewise, there is room for a fairy and Maddison Clarke’s glorious Fairy Hiccup was a booze-fuelled character with unfortunate contractions of the diaphragm. It worked well. And portrayed equally as lackadaisical was Dylan O’Connor’s King Snoozy who teamed up with Dame Dolly for a wonderful Take a Chance on Me.

And we come to the baddies. As I say, I like pantos which differ from the norm and the Princess, who traditionally ends up with the hero, was this time the villain of the piece. Lily-Mae Nicholls was wonderfully evil as Princess Jill. A nice twist and Material Girl entertained the audience well. Alongside Jill in the evil stakes was Rhys Bishop as Baron Stuck Up Johnson, getting boos in the right places and leading an ensemble well with an extremely modified version of Heathers, Candy Store, renamed Behind the Door.

I’m not sure if you should call Tik (Josh Mills) and Tok (Lola Harper) villains, more tools of the Baron and Princess. These two were excellent comic stooges and performed a great slapstick routine in the kitchen. It was a result of these shenanigans that we had one of the moments of the night with the Sausage Roll Medley. Hilarious, although verging on a heinous crime to rock fans with I Love Rock and Roll Sausage Rolls, We Built This City on Rock and Roll Sausage Rolls and Don’t Stop Believing – “Just a sausage roll.” Awesome. And we even had a cameo voiceover from Birmingham Hippodrome panto legend and Youth Theatre patron, Matt Slack as the voice of the giant.

My favourite principal character, however (and getting a huge round of applause in the bows), was Goldie Harper, a singing, out of tune harp, played by one of the youngest talents in Marni Carroll. She had the audience howling with off-key renditions including Lonely, Let it Go and 5000 Green Bottles.

Other numbers of note, overseen by Musical Director, Chris Corcoran, included We Got the Beat, Can’t Stop the Feeling, the haunting Into the Unknown and a humorous costumed performance of Talk to the Animals.

Writer, Joe Logan, also directed and oversaw choreography including an excellent dance troupe consisting of Bethany Gilbert, Olivia Jefferson, Anna Simpson, Ellie Cosgrove, Beatrice Roberts, Emily Denigan, Carter Evans and Luke Griffiths. Assisting Logan in direction was Emily Ewins and you get the feeling of a team effort with the cheers and elation behind the curtain at the end, the results of those endeavours.

Heck, I’ve overrun. By at least 100 words. But that’s what Birmingham Youth Theatre do to you. Give you lots to rave about. And they’re back at The Old Rep Theatre (June 30 to July 2 2022) with High School Musical. I cannot recommend them enough.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

It’s been a heck of a long time. Eighteen months, to be precise. For everyone who loves Musical Theatre. And this was no more so evident than seconds into the opening number of Disco Inferno; the aptly placed Celebration/A Night to Remember. The smiles on the faces of Birmingham Youth Theatre showed exuberance at being on stage, plus that bit extra on returning. For most, this was the first time in a theatre since before Covid hurled itself onto an unsuspecting world and I admit, there were tears in my eyes to be finally witnessing theatre once more.

Birmingham Youth Theatre – Disco Inferno – Crescent Theatre Birmingham – July 24 2021

As a lover of both Amateur and Youth Theatre, Disco Inferno was a joy to watch from start to finish. What is even more remarkable was the short time and opportunities needed to put this show together. From Zoom rehearsals to dancing in the local Cannon Hill Park, it exemplifies what being on stage means, and the desire to create a show.

Set in 1976, Disco Inferno tells the story of aspiring singer, Jack, played excellently by Charlie Bland, and his deal with the Devil’s right hand, Lady Marmalade – the equally outstanding Maddison Clarke. The fallout of this arrangement is Jack’s relationship with Jane of whom Ruby Blount also excelled with a strong performance.

I must admit, I was a little sceptical at first regarding the musical subject matter as 70s disco fills me with horror, being more a rock fan. However, Disco Inferno wasn’t just limited to one genre. We had a smattering of Bowie (Starman) and The Sweet (Ballroom Blitz) which I totally approved of. And generally, Elton John (Crocodile Rock, Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word and Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting) is liked by all. The music was treated with respect and the kick it deserved under the guidance of Musical Director, Chris Corcoran.

Sometimes in theatre you witness a simply magic moment, and I was fortunate on this occasion to do so. Enter Lily-May Nicholls as Kathy giving a rendition of Street Life, only to be confronted by the demon of Am-Dram, dodgy microphones. This one cut out through the entire song, but I was happy to be in Row B where I could hear the excellent vocals. But it’s such a shame when something happens to ruin the moment. Therefore, forward to Act Two where Lily-May was given the opportunity of a second run of the song and boy did she smash it. So brave to do so, as I know from experience when something has gone wrong, it plays on your mind that the next time could go equally as bad. Not so this time. Fantastic.

As well as those already mentioned, we had tremendous principal performances from Harrison Doherty (Tom), Mollie Ewins (Maggie), Josh Mills (Heathcliffe), Florence Slade (Terry), Joe Logan (Lily), Lola Harper (Nicky Diablo) and finally, Cameron Simpson (Duke) who stoked the fires of Hell with a bit of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and Fire.

In addition to those mentioned above and choreographed by the aforementioned Joe Logan, were six specialist dancers: Bethany Gilbert, Liv Jefferson, Ellie Cosgrove, Matilda Ventham, Anna Simpson and Wiktoria Matysiak. These performed exceptionally considering the shorter amount of practice they must have had during the run up to the show. But they were not alone. An ensemble too big to mention must have made director, Mark Shaun Walsh proud indeed.

It’s great to experience Musical Theatre again and even more so witnessing the talent of the future. And one of the youngest also caught my eye. Little Marni Carroll seemed to be active and in character every time she was on stage. Something I like to instil into my own casts. Always an interaction, expression or reaction. Tremendous.

So, well done Birmingham Youth Theatre for coming back with a bang. An inferno of music and dance for all to see.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

I love youth theatre. I’ve seen a fair bit in the past couple of years and however much I enjoy professional and amateur productions, youth theatre is where it begins.

I’d not heard of Back to the 80s before but being (Ahem!) a certain age, the tunes were familiar to me. I’d also not had any experience so far of Birmingham Youth Theatre but on the night, was not disappointed.

Back to the 80s – Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham – 9 June 2018

Back to the 80s is a coming of age, feelgood romp set in the senior year of William Ocean High School (nice pun) and told retrospectively through the narrative of Corey Palmer Senior (Callum Byrne). Characters are split into the familiar which you would relate to from any school experience. We had the regular kids, the cool guys (Were they ever really cool in our school days?), the popular girls, the outcasts and the teachers. With a decent script from Neil Gooding, the show is brought to life immediately with Kids in America. Okay, I was sold, and suddenly seventeen again.

And the numbers kept coming: Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Let’s Hear it for the Boy, Footloose, I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), Total Eclipse of the Heart, Material Girl, Get Outta My Dreams (Get into My Car) and The Final Countdown. These were just a selection which made Back to the 80s such a blast. Ending the night, we had I’ve Had the Time of My Life, a song which has never been a favourite of mine, but one perfect to finish on. Also, strangely, another song which I openly dislike, ended being my top tune in We Are the World.

Founded in 1987, Birmingham Youth Theatre stage two shows a year, featuring talent up to 19 years of age. And talent was very much on view. What impressed me most was that nobody was left out. Everyone appeared to have dialogue and more importantly, solo lines during the songs. All delivered in great style.

Playing the lead role of Callum Junior was Dylan Mulholland who turned in a fine performance. Equally so were Sam Cox (Mr Cocker), Georgia Taylor (Miss Brannigan), Cameron Simpson (Billy), Zak Hayes (Michael), Anna Simpson (Cyndi), Harry Chamberlain (Fergal) and Maddison Clarke (Tiffany). However, those were the principles. I never normally stretch as far as naming an entire cast, but the whole of BYT deserve it, so I will. This includes: Sydney Pope (Mel), Wiktoria Matysiak (Kim), Molly Ewins (Laura), Abbie Hudson (Debbie), Kishan Sambhi (Alf), Daniel Bromley (Kirk) and Holly-Mae Nelson (Eileen). In the chorus, we had Saran Sambhi, Abigail Guest, Abi Shiriane and Karina Galloway. Lastly, a special mention to the lad who appeared to be the youngest member; Dylan-Jak O’Dwyer who portrayed several comic mini characters including Yoda, Mr Miagi and Mario.

In charge of production we had Adam Swift (Director), Chris Corcoran (Musical Director) and Sam Depper (Choreography).

After the curtains closed I was, as often, the solitary sole applauding the band’s play-out music (Everyone always forgets the band). And I could hear from the stage the cries of “We are BYT! We are BYT!” Something to be proud of, indeed.


Back to the 80s – Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham – 9 June 2018

Cheers.

Antony N Britt.

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